As we head towards the 2011 general elections, the temptation to look at almost everything in terms of “political capital” will increasingly become too hard to resist. Now, for starters, capital really supposed to be a business or economic term.
My online business dictionary defines it as the accumulated financial strength of an individual, firm, or nation, created by sacrificing present consumption in favour of investment to generate future returns above investment costs. There you have it.
Now ahead of 2011, even otherwise politically harmless events such as a disaster in Bududa, will present people with political ambitions an opportunity to “capitalize” on. Why else would a whole President bother to tread the muddy hills of Bududa complete with a heavy AK 47 slung over his shoulder?
Some long-sighted politicians wanted to glean some capital off the Guild elections at Makerere University until the administration said, ‘no thank you.’ Then, along came the Kasubi tombs disaster. No sooner had the last ember gone out than politicians started pouring at the burnt site “to express their sympathies” to the Kabaka and all Baganda.
Dr Begigye, Mr Mao, Mr Olara Otunu, of course not forgetting President Museveni, were all there. Mao spoke fluent Luganda but then many voices murmured that his Acholi predecessors were not any kind to the kings who were buried in the tombs.
Mr Otunu, a career diplomat, got an experience he does not want to remember. In fact, he was not accorded the diplomatic treatment he was used to in the many years of his United Nations career. He was not only forced to sing the Buganda anthem (for the first time, I can almost guess) but also to address the “mourners” in Luganda (which of course he failed to do). He left the place with a smashed windscreen and an almost empty basket of political capital. Will a UPC official ever get even a pint of political capital from a muganda?
Then it was the turn of His Excellency, who masterminded “the return of ebyaffe” in 1993. He was not given the VIP treatment he has been taking for granted for the past two decades. Had it not been for his no-nonsense PPU boys who did what they were trained to do, he would have been sent packing out of the ashy Kasubi tombs.
Unfortunately, three people were shot dead in the ensuing melee, not much political capital to get from that if you ask me. And while the President promised that his government would work with the Buganda government to restore the historical site, that is as far as it went.
What all these politicians (probably because they are non-Baganda) did not know is that in the Baganda culture, one does not come to see mourners empty-handed. You are expected to come along with food or some support in terms of cash (amabugo).
Enter the Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya, a muganda himself. He goes straight to the Bulange to mourn with the Katikiro and what does he take along? A wad of crisp $100 notes amounting to $10,000 (about Shs20 million) – of course in the full glare of both print and the broadcast media. Photos of the Katikiro, the VP and the wad of dollars graced the front page of Bukedde the leading Luganda daily.
Now, if these politicians need some lessons on how to get maximum capital ahead of these very competitive general elections in 2011, the person to contact for tips is the good professor of Medicine.